Retailers currently have the holiday blahs. Two
big surges — Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve weekends — failed to offset
thin traffic and flat sales in the days between. As a result,
this week will be crucial for merchants as they seek to salvage the
overall holiday period.
Retailers are looking for a wave of
gift card redemptions, early spring and resort selling at full price,
and winter clearances to unload excessive inventories of outerwear,
ornaments, candles and gift sets to get them back on track for
low-to-mid-single-digit holiday gains.
department stores and specialty chains, week-five [Dec. 24 to 31]
represents roughly 45% of week-four’s volume; upscale stores
generate over 50% during the fifth week.
It hasn’t been
all bad news so far, however. Overall, retailers kept their cool, held
the line on markdowns, and said price cutting was no more severe than
last year. As a result, margins should not suffer even though revenues
might be below initial projections. And there are some big winners at
this point — luxury purveyors such as Barneys New York and Bergdorf
Goodman; aggressive mainstream promoters such as J.C. Penney and Kohl’s
that have been capturing market share for months from rivals; retailers
that had momentum going into the season, such as Nordstrom and J. Crew;
electronics and technology chains, and fashion Web sites, though
Internet sales at multichannel retailers could have sapped business
from their own brick-and-mortar stores.
during the period appear to have been certain moderate to better priced
department stores, discounters such as Wal-Mart, and a few specialty
chains such as Gap. Regionally, the Midwest and Northeast were said to
be the weakest, with the exception of New York City where tourists
jammed the streets and where "it was like catching fish in a barrel,"
said one retail chief executive officer.
On Friday and
Saturday, selling was strong. Retailers said volume far surpassed that of the
corresponding day last year, but Sunday’s crowds were thinner than
expected, and by around 4 p.m., business came to a standstill.
According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., "super Saturday" generated $8.72
billion in sales, just short of Black Friday’s $8.96 billion.
What were the hot sellers? Gift cards emerged as the hottest item of the season,
followed by designer and aspirational handbags from Gucci to Coach;
jewelry, particularly diamonds; party dresses; Uggs and other footwear;
contemporary sportswear; early spring sellers, and electronics,
including iPods, flat screen plasma TVs and game consoles, especially
the PlayStation 3 if it could be found.
On the negative side, store executives said there were no red-hot,
must-have fashion items this season that could have propelled related
categories, and that the entire cold-weather category, from coats and
furs to gloves and thermal sleepwear, was a bust due to the abnormally
high temperatures, often in the high 40s and 50s.